The real reasons Trump is quitting UNESCO

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Trump the Israel puppet

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

At first glance, the decision last week by the Trump administration, followed immediately by Israel, to quit the United Nation’s cultural agency seems strange. Why penalise a body that promotes clean water, literacy, heritage preservation and women’s rights?

Washington’s claim that the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is biased against Israel obscures the real crimes the agency has committed in US eyes.

Palestinian self-determination

The first is that in 2011 UNESCO became the first UN agency to accept Palestine as a member. That set the Palestinians on the path to upgrading their status at the General Assembly a year later.

It should be recalled that in 1993, as Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo accords on the White House lawn, the watching world assumed the aim was to create a Palestinian state.

But it seems most US politicians never received that memo. Under pressure from Israel’s powerful lobbyists, the US Congress hurriedly passed legislation to pre-empt the peace process. One such law compels the United States to cancel funding to any UN body that admits the Palestinians.

Six years on, the US is $550 million in arrears and without voting rights at UNESCO. Its departure is little more than a formality.

Preserving Palestinian heritage

The agency’s second crime relates to its role selecting world heritage sites. That power has proved more than an irritant to Israel and the US.

The occupied territories, supposedly the locus of a future Palestinian state, are packed with such sites. Hellenistic, Roman, Jewish, Christian and Muslim relics promise not only the economic rewards of tourism, but also the chance to control the historic narrative.

Israeli archaeologists, effectively the occupation’s scientific wing, are chiefly interested in excavating, preserving and highlighting Jewish layers of the Holy Land’s past. Those ties have then been used to justify driving out Palestinians and building Jewish settlements.

UNESCO, by contrast, values all of the region’s heritage, and aims to protect the rights of living Palestinians, not just the ruins of long-dead civilisations.

Nowhere has the difference in agendas proved starker than in occupied Hebron, where tens of thousands of Palestinians live under the boot of a few hundred Jewish settlers and the soldiers who watch over them. In July, UNESCO enraged Israel and the US by listing Hebron as one of a handful of world heritage sites “in danger”. Israel called the resolution “fake history”.

Combating “memoricide”

The third crime is the priority UNESCO gives to the Palestinian names of heritage sites under belligerent occupation.

Much hangs on how sites are identified, as Israel understands. Names influence the collective memory, giving meaning and significance to places.

The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has coined the term “memoricide” for Israel’s erasure of most traces of the Palestinians’ past after it dispossessed them of four-fifths of their homeland in 1948 – what Palestinians term their Nakba, or Catastrophe.

Israel did more than just raze 500 Palestinian towns and villages. In their place it planted new Jewish communities with Hebracaised names intended to usurp the former Arabic names. Saffuriya became Tzipori; Hittin was supplanted by Hittim; Muyjadil was transformed into Migdal.

A similar process of what Israel calls “Judaisation” is under way in the occupied territories. The settlers of Beitar Ilit threaten the Palestinians of Battir. Nearby, the Palestinians of Sussiya have been dislodged by a Jewish settlement of exactly the same name.

The stakes are highest in Jerusalem. The vast Western Wall plaza below Al Aqsa mosque was created in 1967 after more than 1,000 Palestinians were evicted and their quarter demolished. Millions of visitors each year amble across the plaza, oblivious to this act of ethnic cleansing.

Settlers, aided by the Israeli state, continue to encircle Christian and Muslim sites in the hope of taking them over.

That is the context for recent UNESCO reports highlighting the threats to Jerusalem’s Old City, including Israel’s denial for most Palestinians of the right to worship at Al-Aqsa.

Israel has lobbied to have Jerusalem removed from the list of endangered heritage sites. Alongside the US, it has whipped up a frenzy of moral outrage, berating UNESCO for failing to prioritise the Hebrew names used by the occupation authorities.

Upholding international law

UNESCO’s responsibility, however, is not to safeguard the occupation or bolster Israel’s efforts at Judaisation. It is there to uphold international law and prevent Palestinians from being disappeared by Israel.

Trump’s decision to quit UNESCO is far from his alone. His predecessors have been scuffling with the agency since the 1970s, often over its refusal to cave in to Israeli pressure.

Now, Washington has a pressing additional reason to punish UNESCO for allowing Palestine to become a member. It needs to make an example of the cultural body to dissuade other agencies from following suit.

Trump’s confected indignation at UNESCO, and his shrugging off of its vital global programmes, serve as a reminder that the US is not an “honest broker” of a Middle East peace. Rather it is the biggest obstacle to its realisation.


A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi. The version here is published by permission of Jonathan Cook.

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U.S. and israel unable to live with the standards required in membership of UNESCO

U.S., Israel to Pull Out of U.N. Agency Over Alleged Bias

The United Nations flag. (Makaristos / Wikimedia Commons)

Editor’s note: Shortly after the U.S. announced it was pulling out of UNESCO, Israel announced it would join the U.S. in leaving the agency.

PARIS—The United States said Thursday it is pulling out of the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and need for “fundamental reform.”

While the Trump administration had been preparing for a likely withdrawal from UNESCO for months, the announcement by the State Department on Thursday rocked the agency’s Paris headquarters, where a heated election to choose a new chief is underway.

The outgoing UNESCO director-general expressed her “profound regret” at the decision and tried to defend the reputation of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions.

The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011, but the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office and sought to weigh on policy behind the scenes. The U.S. now owes about $550 million in back payments.

In a statement, the State Department said the decision will take effect Dec. 31, 2018, and that the U.S. will seek a “permanent observer” status instead. It cited U.S. belief in “the need for fundamental reform in the organization.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, praised Washington’s move as heralding “a new day at the U.N., where there is a price to pay for discrimination against Israel.”

“UNESCO has become a battlefield for Israel bashing and has disregarded its true role and purpose,” Danon said in a statement. The organization’s absurd and shameful resolutions against Israel have consequences.”

Several U.S. diplomats who were to have been posted to UNESCO this summer were told that their positions were on hold and advised to seek other jobs. In addition, the Trump administration’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year contains no provision for the possibility that UNESCO funding restrictions might be lifted.

The lack of staffing and funding plans for UNESCO by the U.S. have been accompanied by repeated denunciations of UNESCO by senior U.S. officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

U.S. officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and that it was not discussed with other countries but was the result of an internal U.S. government deliberation.

The officials, who were not authorized to be publicly named discussing the issue, said the U.S. is notably angry over UNESCO resolutions denying Jewish connections to holy sites and references to Israel as an occupying power.

Chris Hegadorn, the U.S. Charge d’Affaires and ranking U.S. representative to UNESCO, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that the decision to pull out was linked to “the unfortunate politicization of the mandate of UNESCO, where anti-Israel bias has been a major factor and something the US has been struggling to address.”

“The accrual of arrears since 2011 since the admission of Palestine as a member state had been mounting,” he added.

Many saw the 2011 UNESCO vote to include Palestine as evidence of long-running, ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.

UNESCO’s outgoing director-general, Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, called the U.S. departure a loss for “the United Nations family” and for multilateralism. She said the U.S. and UNESCO matter to each other more than ever now to better fight “the rise of violent extremism and terrorism.”

She defended UNESCO’s reputation, noting its efforts to support Holocaust education and train teachers to fight anti-Semitism—and that that the Statue of Liberty is among the many World Heritage sites protected by the U.N. agency. UNESCO also works to improve education for girls in poor countries and in scientific fields and to defend media freedom, among other activities.

UNESCO’s executive board plans to select its choice to succeed Bokova by Friday in a secret ballot.

It’s not the first time the U.S. has pulled out of UNESCO: Washington did the same thing in the 1980s because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests. The U.S. rejoined in 2003.

Hegadorn said the U.S. would remain a force at the cultural agency in the same way as it was from 1984 when the country withdrew under President Ronald Reagan.

The U.S. informed Bokova it intends to stay engaged as a non-member ‘observer state’ on “non-politicized” issues, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.

“We will be carefully watching how the organization and the new director general steers the agency,” Hegadorn said. “Ideally, it steers it in way that U.S. interests and UNESCO’s mandate will converge.”

___

Lee reported from Washington.

Matthew Lee and Thomas Adamson / AP

Update on Israeli Feud with UNESCO

As I reported in a post yesterday, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO has in the past week adopted a couple of resolutions that have aroused Israeli indignation. One of the resolutions–the one which seems to have sparked the most fury–recognizes the old city of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage site.

According to the video in the embedded tweet below, Israel has now announced a cut of $1 million in UN funding, apparently in retaliation.

 declared the obvious,  is 🇵🇸. Why is Israel even in the UN? They’ve broken so many laws — 🇮🇱 needs to be shunned & boycotted!

 As I reported in yesterday’s post–and as the video above also mentions–the World Heritage committee, in addition to designating the site as Palestinian, also declared it to be endangered. Reportedly the concern here, or at least one of the concerns, is the threat from vandalism. Given that Hebron is inhabited by Israeli settlers, who seem to be free to commit crimes against the Palestinian population with impunity, the apprehension is probably justified. But of course this aspect to the resolution’s passage in all probability had the effect of arousing Israeli anger all the more.

The Israeli official in the video I posted yesterday–the man who interrupted the proceedings by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews” and who was accused by the representative from Cuba of turning the meeting into a “politicized circus” by way of response–this man’s name, apparently, is Carmel Shama-Hacohen, and he reportedly is Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO. According to a report here, shortly after the Hebron resolution was passed, he declared that fixing his “toilet” was more important than the vote just taken:

Israel isn’t known for its fondness of the United Nations and its institutions, but a resolution passed on Friday questioning Israel’s continued occupation of the ancient West Bank city of Hebron and the damage it might be causing to holy sites there drew an unusual response.

“Sorry … I have a very urgent … sorry, Mr Chairman … it’s my plumber in my apartment in Paris,” Carmel Shama-Hacohen, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), said sarcastically while addressing the forum’s annual gathering.

“There is a huge problem in my toilet, and it’s more important than the decision you just adopted, thank you.”

Also in yesterday’s post I made an offhand observation regarding the impression that comments by Israeli officials often leave with me. Specifically, I said:

From turning a meeting into a circus sideshow by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews,” to accusing a people living under a brutal occupation of being responsible for their own misery and suffering–there is something about the behavior of Israeli officials that somehow always seems to remind me of the proverbial rude guest who showed up for a party uninvited.

When I wrote those words yesterday, little did I know that Israel does not even hold a seat on World Heritage Committee–which would seem to lend a sort of special significance to my comment about the rude guest showing up uninvited. But indeed, I made that discovery today.

If you go to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention website, you can find a PDF document that lists the current members of the World Heritage Committee. There are 21 of them in all. Here is a screen shot from the document (click to enlarge):

As you can see, Israel is not on the list. In other words, Hacohen, who spent part of the meeting talking about his toilet and importuning silence on behalf of “six million murdered Jews,” is not even a member of the committee. But yet, according to Israelis, it is the committee members who are guilty of bad behavior.

By the way, the World Heritage Committee’s deliberations are taking place in Krakow, Poland, and they are not over yet. The session is supposed to continue through Wednesday, so there may be more to come.

Israel Turns UNESCO Meeting into ‘Politicized Circus’

Israel, not for the first time, is royally P.O.’ed at UNESCO. The UN organization’s World Heritage Committee has been holding a meeting in Krakow, Poland–and in a session on July 4, the body passed a resolution naming Israel as an “occupying power” while at the same time condemning its tunneling and underground excavation activities in the old city of Jerusalem.

Said excavations, presumably for archaeological purposes, started up several years ago. I first put up a post about them back in 2014 after it was reported that they were causing structural problems with Palestinian homes in the area, so it’s good that UNESCO is addressing the issue. But the resolution angered the Israeli representative, who threw a temper tantrum by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews.” And this is what we see in the video below:

As you can see, the representative from Cuba charged the Israeli–rightfully in my opinion–with turning the meeting into a “politicized circus.” She then reciprocated by calling for a moment of silence for Palestinians who have died. As the video shows, the overwhelming majority of people in the auditorium rose to their feet. It did not sit well with the Israelis.

According to a report here, one Israeli official accused the UNESCO committee of being “detached from reality,” while the Zionist state’s Foreign Ministry is quoted as saying, “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and no decision by UNESCO can change that reality.”

That all was, as I say, on July 4.

Three days later, on July 7, Israel again had a hissy fit over a resolution–passed by the same committee. This time the measure had to do with Hebron, specifically recognizing its old city as an endangered World Heritage site. Hebron’s old city includes a site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque (or Mosque of Abraham) and to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs. In that regard it has significance to both religions. But the committee voted to recognize the old city of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage site–rather than an Israeli one. This of course makes perfectly logical sense because Hebron is in the West Bank and the West Bank is internationally recognized as rightfully belonging to the Palestinians. But again Israelis resorted to tantrums.

“Not a Jewish site?!” thundered Netanyahu. “Who is buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah – our patriarchs and matriarchs!”

Of course, the committee didn’t say it wasn’t a Jewish site; they just said it was a Palestinian site–because the site is, after all, in Occupied Palestine. In fact, according to a report here, the resolution–which passed by a vote of 12-3 with six abstentions–“emphasized the importance of the site to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.”

But Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli charged the committee with attempting to “appropriate the national symbols of the Jewish people,” and she went on to further accuse the UNESCO delegates of maliciously spreading lies.

“This is a badge of shame for UNESCO, who time after time chooses to stand on the side of lies,” she is quoted as saying.

You might recall I put up a post about Hotoveli a week ago.  This was after she did an interview with 60 Minutes Australia in which she expressed the view that “it’s not because of the Israelis” that Palestinians live under such abject conditions. No, “it’s really dependent on them,” she insisted, adding that “their leadership doesn’t give them the ability to live under democratic values.”

From turning a meeting into a circus sideshow by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews,” to accusing a people living under a brutal occupation of being responsible for their own misery and suffering–there is something about the behavior of Israeli officials that somehow always seems to remind me of the proverbial rude guest who showed up for a party uninvited.

By the way, in case you missed it, Israel recently confiscated an array of solar panels that had been donated by the Dutch government to a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Despite being surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements, the village in question, Jubbet al-Dhib, is not connected to the national electric grid. The Dutch government has called the action “unacceptable,” and Holland’s prime minister, Mark Rutte, has reportedly now lodged a formal protest. The solar panels cost approximately $600,000.

Netanyahu Slams ‘Delusional’ UNESCO Vote on Al-Khalil (Hebron)

July 7, 2017

Zionist PM Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday slammed a UNESCO vote declaring the Old City ofAl-Khalil (Hebron) Netanyahu Slams ‘Delusional’ UNESCO Vote on Al-Khalil (Hebron)Hebron an endangered world heritage site, calling it a “delusional decision”.

“It is another delusional decision by UNESCO,” Netanyahu said in a Hebrew video posted online. “This time they ruled the Tomb of the Patriarchs is a Palestinian site, meaning not a Jewish site, and it is in danger.”

Source: AFP

UNESCO Votes to Declare Palestine’s Al-Khalil ‘a Heritage Site’

July 7, 2017

Al-Khalil-1

UNESCO has declared the Old City of al-Khalil (Hebron) a protected heritage site in a secret ballot despite Israeli attempts to thwart the vote.

On Friday, the UN’s cultural arm voted 12 to three — with six abstentions — to give heritage status to al-Khalil in the occupied West Bank, which is home to more than 200,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Israeli settlers.

On Thursday, a Palestinian official said the Zionist entity was seeking to thwart Palestinian efforts to include the Old City of al-Khalil (Hebron) on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger.

Deputy Mayor of al-Khalil Yousef al Jabari made the remarks to a group of journalists visiting the Old City of al-Khalil on Thursday, one day prior to UNESCO’s vote on the matter.

The Old City of al-Khalil is also home to the Ibrahimi Mosque, one of the key holy sites in the Muslim world.

Jabari described Ibrahimi Mosque as a “pure Muslim” site and said, “We will do everything we can [for] this place to remain a mosque, and a mosque for Muslim worshipers only.”

If the Palestinian Authority (PA) succeeds in its bid on Friday, the Old City of al-Khalil would become the third site registered under “Palestine” since the UNESCO recognized it as a member state in 2011.

Source: Press TV

Power crisis hits Gaza hospitals as Israel tightens siege on sick

Source

8 May 2017

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is growing more dire against the dimming possibility of a reconciliation between the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority controlled by Mahmoud Abbas, and the Islamist movement Hamas, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, has warned.

UNSCO says the friction between the competing Palestinian regimes that operate under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip “have aggravated an already difficult situation in the Gaza Strip.”

One consequence is that for the last three weeks, Gaza’s electricity crisis has become even more severe, forcing hospitals to curtail services in an attempt to preserve limited fuel supplies.

The World Health Organization warned that all of Gaza’s public hospitals may be forced to suspend critical services, putting thousands of lives at risk.

These growing tensions culminated on 27 April, when the Palestinian Authority decided that it would no longer pay for the electricity Gaza receives from Israel.

Hamas called the move “a grave escalation and an act of madness.”

“Gaza will not kneel for collaborators with the occupation,” Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesperson, posted on Twitter.

PA pressure on Hamas

The step is likely part of the PA’s decade-long effort to force Hamas to cede control in Gaza. Hamas won parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2006, but was never allowed to fully assume power over the Palestinian Authority.

A partially successful US-backed putsch led to the split, with Abbas remaining in control of the PA in the West Bank, and Hamas controlling the interior of Gaza.

The Abbas-controlled PA works closely with Israeli occupation forces, while Hamas has continued to engage in armed resistance.

In early April, Abbas said he would take “unprecedented steps in the coming days to end the division” between the West Bank and Gaza.

The PA imposed sharp salary cuts on civil servants there, leading to mass protests. But Rami Hamdallah, the PA prime minister in Ramallah, said, as the BBC reported, that “the salary cuts would stay in place until Hamas moved towards reconciliation.”

Last week, Hamas announced a new charter ditching anti-Jewish language and formally accepting, as Abbas does, a two-state solution with Israel.

It also announced on Saturday that Ismail Haniyeh, its former prime minister in Gaza, has been elected as the movement’s overall leader.

One Israeli analyst suggested in the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz that Abbas’ crackdown on Gaza was part of an attempt to keep Hamas isolated and to curry favor with the new US president. Abbas met Donald Trump at the White House last week.

Hospitals at “minimal capacity”

Meanwhile, Gaza’s economy has been devastated by a 10-year Israeli blockade and repeated military assaults.

In mid-April, Gaza’s only power plant ran out of fuel after a three-month supply funded by Turkey and Qatar was depleted.

The PA has refused Hamas’ requests to reduce or eliminate the heavy taxes on diesel that fuels Gaza’s power plant, a provision UNSCO supports.

Gaza receives just over half of its electricity from Israel which has until now been paid for by the Palestinian Authority.

“Palestinians in Gaza, who live in a protracted humanitarian crisis, can no longer be held hostage by disagreements, divisions and closures,” Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said.

Gaza is already operating on a severe energy deficit. Its daily supply of electricity from Israel, Egypt and its sole, partially functioning power plant totals only 210 megawatts, while the population of two million requires 450 megawatts per day.

The shortfall means that people in Gaza without backup generators must function with no electricity for 12 to 18 hours a day.

While international assistance has managed to barely keep hospitals open by ensuring they have enough fuel for generators, Gaza’s precarious situation is clear.

Hospitals are currently working “at minimal capacity,” the UN humanitarian coordination agency OCHA reported last month.

Another dire health and environmental consequence is that faced with a lack of energy for water treatment, waste plants are discharging more raw sewage into the sea.

No exit for many

Emergency fuel supplies are only guaranteed through May, forcing hospitals to postpone surgeries and refer more patients outside Gaza, potentially exposing them to life-threatening delays or Israeli attempts at blackmail.

According to UNSCO, since 15 September 2016, Israel has significantly reduced approvals for Palestinians to leave Gaza, including patients.

Last December, Israel approved fewer than 42 percent of applications to leave Gaza for medical care, the lowest rate since 2009, according to UNSCO.

Meanwhile, Egypt kept the Rafah crossing, the only outlet for most of Gaza’s residents, completely closed for the entire month of April.

Letting Israel off the hook

UNSCO acknowledges that Israel’s blockade is responsible for severe impairment in every sector in Gaza, including education, health and agriculture, and urges the “international community” to support the lifting of Israel’s siege.

Yet it still presents the closure as a security measure for Israel.

UNSCO notes that this year marks 10 years of Israel’s closure on Gaza, which UNSCO describes as a response to Hamas’ “violent” takeover in 2007.

As well as ignoring the context of the intra-Palestinian fighting, this timeline ignores that the cut in exit permits began in the mid-1990s, sharply falling after Israel withdrew its settlers from Gaza in 2005.

In the face of the evidence that its prospects have all but vanished, UNSCO continues to insist that the “international community” commit to a two-state solution.

It notes that in the occupied West Bank, Israel’s construction of illegal settlements has surged since last September while the land where Palestinians live is shrinking.

The report confirms that it is “virtually impossible” for Palestinians to obtain building permits in Area C of the West Bank – the 60 percent of the occupied West Bank over which Israel exercises full control. More than 90 percent of applications for building permits are rejected by Israeli occupation forces.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to develop settlements in Area C.

UNSCO acknowledges that Israel’s settlements violate international law, but pointedly fails to call for any sanctions or consequences.

“It is critical that recent international initiatives to advance the prospects for peace translate into a legitimate process to end the occupation and achieve a final settlement to the conflict,” UNSCO implores.

What UNSCO does not explain is how such a “process” would occur in the complete absence of measures to hold the occupying power accountable.

 

US Adopts Negative Approach to United Nations, in other words “International Law”

US Adopts Negative Approach to United Nations

http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/03/02/us-adopts-negative-approach-united-nations.html

There are many warning signs to indicate that the US is poised to adopt a more negative approach toward the United Nations than it has in recent years. For instance, the Trump administration is considering canceling US participation on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in protest of the body’s actions in general, and specifically its treatment of Israel.

On February 16, Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, called out the HRC for «breathtaking double standards» and «outrageously biased resolutions» against Israel, during a press conference after her meeting with the UN Security Council. She lashed out at the council for failing to discuss the buildup of illegal Hezbollah weapons, provided by Iran; strategies for defeating the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group; or holding Syrian President Bashar Assad accountable for the alleged crimes against civilians.

According to Politico, US State Secretary Rex Tillerson is questioning the value of the US belonging to the Human Rights Council.

The US believes that the countries which violate human rights are members of the council. In 2012, the body was slammed for allowing a representative of the Palestinian Hamas group to speak.

 

Indeed, the council has been many times criticized for being biased and incompetent. Russia has blasted the body for confrontational approaches. Speaking at the UN General Assembly session in November, 2016, Grigori Lukyantsev, Russian Foreign Ministry’s deputy director of Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights, accused the UNHRC of becoming a platform for lambasting certain countries and settling political scores. «We have to note that the Council’s agenda has become an instrument for promoting conjunctural interests of several countries and groups. Discussions more and more often turn to settling political scores, mentorship, defamation of states. Moreover, the ungrounded geographical imbalance in the matter of human rights situations in one or another country does not reflect real tendencies, but rather represents a result of political orders», he noted. The deputy director also noted that Russia decries «attempts to use the HRC for including different politically charged issues on the agenda for the UN General Assembly».

In October, 2016, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi criticized the re-election of Saudi Arabia to the UNHRC, saying that the election is, «the best indication that human rights is merely in direction of political interests». Human rights groups had called on countries to reject the candidacy of Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Yemen. The kingdom was elected for its calls to protect women’s rights, which are widely believed to be violated by Riyadh.

No doubt the US is serious about pulling out from the council. The calls for leaving have been heard there since a long time ago. Actually, Republicans have always been prone to minimize the role of the UN. In 2003, many US officials and lawmakers were stunned by the fact that the UN Human Rights Commission elected the Libyan ambassador Najat al-Hajjaji its president yesterday, overriding a US objection that her country’s «horrible» record disqualified it for the post. Many Americans hold the opinion that the withdrawal from the UNHRC will not hurt the United States in any way.

They may be right; the decision to withdraw will not have grave consequences. It’s not the membership in the council that matters but rather the US disparaging attitude towards the United Nations in general. The views of President Trump and his advisers – combined with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress – indicate that Washington is poised to change its policy towards the UN. In the 1980s, President Ronald Regan was antagonistic to the international body. The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation acted as the leading anti-UN lobby at that time. It campaigned for defunding the organization. George W. Bush Jr. openly derided the UN and renounced many multilateral treaties.

President Trump has made making derogatory comments about the United Nations. The UN has «such great potential,» but it has become «a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!» he tweeted in December, 2016. A couple of days later he tweeted again: «As to the UN, things will be different after Jan 20th».

The new US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, had argued for a review of US expenditure on the UN to ensure America «gets what it pays for» though she cautioned in her confirmation hearing against «slash and burn» cuts.

The administration is preparing to order sweeping cuts in funding to the UN and other international organizations, while potentially walking away from some treaties. A president’s draft executive order would reduce voluntary contributions to international bodies by 40% and complains of ‘burdensome’ commitment to UN. The draft order could reverse or roll back funding for priorities championed by former President Barack Obama, including international peacekeeping missions and US support for development work under the UN umbrella. A second order calls for a review and possible withdrawal from certain forms of multilateral treaties that do not involve «national security, extradition or international trade». Potential targets include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

According to the Washington Post, the proposed funding review is envisaged to take a year and be overseen by a panel including the departments of defence, state, justice, the office of the director of national security, the office of management and budget and the national security adviser. It is likely to attract only limited opposition in Congress. «The United States is in fact the United Nations’ largest supporter, providing nearly a quarter of its total revenues, and the American contribution continues to grow annually», the Guardian cites the text of the order on international funding cuts, titled Auditing and Reducing US Funding of International Organizations.

Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said «I think that heavy cuts to US funding to the UN are likely, and Trump will keep on kicking the institution to score cheap political points».

Alabama representative and senior Republican Mike Rogers drafted a bill to terminate the US membership in the UN. In early January, a bill known as the American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017 was introduced to US Congress. The bill aims to repeal the United Nations Participation Act of 1945 and other related laws. It requires the president to terminate US membership in the UN and to close the America’s Mission to the United Nations. The legislation prohibits the authorization of funds for the US assessed or voluntary contribution to the UN, the authorization of funds for any US contribution to any UN military or peacekeeping operation, the expenditure of funds to support the participation of US armed forces as part of any UN military or peacekeeping operation, US Armed Forces from serving under U.N. command, and diplomatic immunity for UN officers or employees.

Also in January, Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a bill to defund the United Nations. Many Republicans see the Trump presidency as the best opportunity to pull out from the UN.

True, the organization is certainly overdue for serious internal changes but the world needs it as the only universal body able to take on the challenges to humanity and maintain global security, including the fight against terror. The UN is a communication platform bringing states together to talk instead of plunging into endless conflicts.

After the Cold War, the UN saw a radical expansion in its peacekeeping duties, taking on more missions in ten years than it had in the previous four decades. Between 1988 and 2000, the number of adopted Security Council resolutions more than doubled, and the peacekeeping budget increased more than tenfold. Today, the organization maintains 16 UN peacekeeping operations with 117,000 troops, police, military observers, civilian personnel and volunteers from 125 countries.

In the current UN budget, these operations cost $7.87bn a year. The US defense budget in FY 2016 was approximately $600bn. The Guardian emphasizes that «for a truly tiny cost, close to 1% of the American defense budget, America receives a huge dividend from the UN – peace in many remote parts of the world, making them safe for American trade, investment and tourism. If the US tried to do all this alone (which it would be unable to), it would cost first, American lives, and second, billions more in US tax dollars». The UN’s role in tackling the problem of refugees around the world is immense.

The UN isn’t perfect but it’s the best international body to address international problems. To reject the organization will rob the US of a vital institution to communicate with the world. To disregard the UN means to disregard international law. Hopefully, this is only a temporary trend and reason will prevail. By leaving, the US will shoot itself in the foot. 

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